Towards a sustainable and equitable blue economy

The global rush to develop the ‘blue economy’ risks harming both the marine environment and human wellbeing. Bold policies and actions are urgently needed. We identify five priorities to chart a course towards an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable blue economy.

The Thriving Coastal Communities Initiative

Rural and resource-based coastal communities in British Columbia (BC) are facing a number of pressing challenges that are affecting the holistic health and well-being of local people. The challenges facing coastal communities include being disconnected from decision-making process, a changing climate, rapidly evolving ecosystems, increasing pollution, declining investment, loss of community infrastructure, increasing competition over […]

Local support for conservation is associated with perceptions of good governance, social impacts, and ecological effectiveness

Local support is important for the longevity of conservation initiatives. The literature suggests that perceptions of ecological effectiveness, social impacts, and good governance will influence levels of local support for conservation. This paper examines these relationships using data from a survey of small‐scale fishermen in 11 marine protected areas from six countries in the Mediterranean Sea. The survey queried small‐scale fishermen regarding perceptions and support for conservation. We constructed composite scores for three categories of perceptions—ecological effectiveness, social impacts, and good governance—and tested the relationship with levels of support using ordinal regression models. While all three factors were positively correlated with support for conservation, perceptions of good governance and social impacts were stronger predictors of increasing support. These findings suggest that employing good governance processes and managing social impacts may be more important than ecological effectiveness for maintaining local support for conservation.

Marine social science for the peopled seas.

Coastal communities, indigenous peoples, and small-scale fishers rely on the ocean for livelihoods, for subsistence, for wellbeing and for cultural continuity. Thus, understanding the human dimensions of the world’s peopled seas and coasts is fundamental to evidence-based decision-making across marine policy realms, including marine conservation, marine spatial planning, fisheries management, the blue economy and climate adaptation. This perspective article contends that the marine social sciences must inform the pursuit of sustainable oceans. To this end, the article introduces this burgeoning field and briefly reviews the insights that social science can offer to guide ocean and coastal policy and management. The upcoming United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) provides a tremendous opportunity to build on the current interest, need for and momentum in the marine social sciences. We will be missing the boat if the marine social sciences do not form an integral and substantial part of the mandate and investments of this global ocean science for sustainability initiative.

In political seas: engaging with political ecology in the ocean and coastal environment

The world’s oceans and coasts are awash in a sea of politics. The marine environment is increasingly busy, changing, and a site of degradation, marginalization, injustice, contestation and conflict over declining resources and occupied spaces at local to global scales. Themes of political ecology, such as power and politics, narratives and knowledge, scale and history, environmental justice and equity, are thus salient issues to understand in ocean and coastal governance and management. This subject review examines research on these themes of political ecology in the ocean and coastal environment and reflects on how the insights gained might be applied to governance and management. Political ecology provides important insights into: the influence of power in ocean management and governance processes; the manner in which narratives, knowledge, and scale are used to legitimize and shape policies and management efforts; the effects of historical trajectories on present circumstances, options, and practices; and the nature of inequities and environmental injustices that can occur in the marine environment. Moreover, ocean and coastal researchers, practitioners, and decision makers ought to engage with the political processes and injustices occurring in the ocean. Moving from critical insights to constructive engagements will ensure that political ecology helps to plant seeds of hope in the Anthropocene ocean.

Expanding the role of social science in conservation through an engagement with philosophy, methodology, and methods.

The Special Feature led by Sutherland, Dicks, Everard, and Geneletti (Methods Ecology and Evolution, 9, 7–9, 2018) sought to highlight the importance of “qualitative methods” for conservation. The intention is welcome, and the collection makes many important contributions. Yet, the articles presented a limited perspective on the field, with a focus on objectivist and instrumental methods, omitting discussion of some broader philosophical and methodological considerations crucial to social science research. Consequently, the Special Feature risks narrowing the scope of social science research and, potentially, reducing its quality and usefulness. In this article, we seek to build on the strengths of the articles of the Special Feature by drawing in a discussion on social science research philosophy, methodology, and methods.We start with a brief discussion on the value of thinking about data as being qualitative (i.e., text, image, or numeric) or quantitative (i.e., numeric), not methods or research. Thinking about methods as qualitative can obscure many important aspects of research design by implying that “qualitative methods” somehow embody a particular set of assumptions or principles. Researchers can bring similar, or very different, sets of assumptions to their research design, irrespective of whether they collect qualitative or quantitative data.We clarify broad concepts, including philosophy, methodology, and methods, explaining their role in social science research design. Doing so provides us with an opportunity to examine some of the terms used across the articles of the Special Feature (e.g., bias), revealing that they are used in ways that could be interpreted as being inconsistent with their use in a number of applications of social science.We provide worked examples of how social science research can be designed to collect qualitative data that not only understands decision‐making processes, but also the unique social–ecological contexts in which it takes place. These examples demonstrate the importance of coherence between philosophy, methodology, and methods in research design, and the importance of reflexivity throughout the research process.We conclude with encouragement for conservation social scientists to explore a wider range of qualitative research approaches, providing guidance for the selection and application of social science methods for ecology and conservation.

Environmental governance: A practical framework to guide design, evaluation, and analysis

Governance is one of the most important factors for ensuring effective environmental management and conservation actions. Yet, there is still a relative paucity of comprehensive and practicable guidance that can be used to frame the evaluation, design, and analysis of systems of environmental governance. This conceptual review and synthesis article seeks to addresses this problem through resituating the broad body of governance literature into a practical framework for environmental governance. Our framework builds on a rich history of governance scholarship to propose that environmental governance has four general aims or objectives – to be effective, to be equitable, to be responsive, and to be robust. Each of these four objectives need to be considered simultaneously across the institutional, structural, and procedural elements of environmental governance. Through a review of the literature, we developed a set of attributes for each of these objectives and relate these to the overall capacity, functioning, and performance of environmental governance. Our aim is to provide a practical and adaptable framework that can be applied to the design, evaluation, and analysis of environmental governance in different social and political contexts, to diverse environmental problems and modes of governance, and at a range of scales.

Achieving the promise of integration in social-ecological research: a review and prospectus

An integrated understanding of both social and ecological aspects of environmental issues is essential to address pressing sustainability challenges. An integrated social-ecological systems perspective is purported to provide a better understanding of the complex relationships between humans and nature. Despite a threefold increase in the amount of social-ecological research published between 2010 and 2015, it is unclear whether these approaches have been truly integrative. We conducted a systematic literature review to investigate the conceptual, methodological, disciplinary, and functional aspects of social-ecological integration. In general, we found that overall integration is still lacking in social-ecological research. Some social variables deemed important for addressing sustainability challenges are underrepresented in social-ecological studies, e.g., culture, politics, and power. Disciplines such as ecology, urban studies, and geography are better integrated than others, e.g., sociology, biology, and public administration. In addition to ecology and urban studies, biodiversity conservation plays a key brokerage role in integrating other disciplines into social-ecological research. Studies founded on systems theory have the highest rates of integration. Highly integrative studies combine different types of tools, involve stakeholders at appropriate stages, and tend to deliver practical recommendations. Better social-ecological integration must underpin sustainability science. To achieve this potential, future social-ecological research will require greater attention to the following: the interdisciplinary composition of project teams, strategic stakeholder involvement, application of multiple tools, incorporation of both social and ecological variables, consideration of bidirectional relationships between variables, and identification of implications and articulation of clear policy recommendations.

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